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Turkish court releases media rights representatives, 'terror' charges stand

A top human rights advocate and a Reporters Without Borders representative in Turkey have been freed from jail on bail after they were arrested on "terror propaganda" charges. Journalist Ahmet Nesin remains in jail.

A Turkish court on Thursday released on bail Sebnem Korur Fincanci, director of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, and Erol Onderoglu, Turkey representative of the media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

The two, along with journalist Ahmet Nesin, were arrested on June 20 on charges of spreading "terror propaganda" after guest-editing the pro-Kurdish daily "Özgür Gündem" in an act of solidarity to protest juridical harrassment of the newspaper's staff. Nesin's case is being reviewed at another court. He remains in jail.

However, the court did not drop charges against the three, who face up to 14 years in prison in what is likely to be a long and drawn out legal process.

The trio's solidarity campaign was launched in response to a heightened crackdown on media rights in Turkey. Pro-Kurdish media is often accused by the government of being the propaganda arm of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The government is also investigating at least 55 other people - including journalists, activists and lawyers - for participating in the solidarity campaign.

The arrests and investigations triggered national and international condemnation as yet another attack on press freedom.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led an unprecedented campaign to silence critical media over the past several years, throwing journalists in prison, confiscating media outlets, opening court cases against critics and imposing widespread censorship and self-censorship on an ever pliant media landscape.

Even when the Turkish government is not successful in imprisoning journalists or critics, the court process is nonetheless used as a tool of intimidation and harassment.

The crackdown on media is often justified under Turkey's sweeping and vague "anti-terror" laws, which have been sharply criticized by the European Union. Among other things the anti-terror laws are used justify crackdowns on reporting about sensitive issues related the Kurdish issue and military operations.

RSF's media freedom ranking puts NATO member and EU candidate country Turkey at 151 out of 180 countries.

The assault on the media has been accompanied by a consolidation of pro-government media outlets spewing out propaganda.

Watch video 03:33

Sedat Ergin (Hürriyet) on freedom of the press in Turkey

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